Obama Administration Officials Discuss Global Development Policy At Roundtable Event

“President Barack Obama’s top cabinet members stressed Tuesday that devoting money and resources to overseas diplomacy and development is essential to U.S. national security,” CNN reports.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “made their remarks while participating in a round-table discussion organized by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition” (Ure, 9/29). USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Daniel Yohannes also participated in the event, according to RTTNews (9/29).

“Development is an integral part of America’s national security policy, and it is part of an integrated approach that includes development, diplomacy and defense,” Clinton said, CNN reports. “Development produces stability and contributes to better governance,” Gates said, noting that development investments can help foster conditions abroad that might require fewer U.S. troops. “Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers,” he said.

“Geithner agreed with Clinton and Gates, and said U.S. officials need to do a better job of making the case to the American people why their taxpayer money should be sent overseas, given 10 percent unemployment and one in eight Americans is on food stamps,” according to CNN.

“We spend a lot of money doing things that are not rooted in evidence,” she said. “We are ramping up monitoring and evaluation to make sure that we can be very clear in telling the Congress and the American taxpayers that these investments are in America’s interest,” she said (9/29).

Clinton also discussed the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) report, which aims to provide a strategy for strengthening diplomacy and development, RTTNews reports. She said she expects the QDDR to be published in the next 30 to 60 days. The report will provide answers to questions such as “how we change our procurement and contracting policies … how we better train ambassadors to be chief executives of all the different missions that they’re responsible for,” she said. The QDDR will also detail “the personnel policies to be able to open up the State Department and USAID so that we can get the people with the expertise that is needed in the jobs that we’re doing in partner countries,” Clinton added (9/29).

The panel also discussed the need for the U.S. to enforce tougher conditions on its foreign aid, highlighting the expectation that wealthy foreigners pay taxes in their own countries, the Associated Press reports.

“Countries that will not tax their elite who expect us to come in and help them serve their people are just not going to get the kind of help from us that historically they may have,” Clinton said (Gearan, 9/28).

“‘Pakistan cannot have a tax rate of 9 percent of GDP when land owners and all of the other elites do not pay anything or pay so little it’s laughable, and then when there’s a problem everybody expects the United States and others to come in and help,’ Clinton said to a round of applause,” Foreign Policy’s blog, “The Cable” writes. Clinton added that Pakistan’s finance minister was introducing an economic and tax reform package. “Geithner … drove home the message that countries who want U.S. development aid must adopt the reforms that Clinton is advocating,” according to the blog.

In an interview with “The Cable,” Shah said Pakistan’s flood recovery is “‘going to be much more successful’ if Pakistan adopts the Obama administration’s suggestions to ‘implement a stronger tax regime that’s … more effective'” (Rogin, 9/28). 

The State Department has a transcript and video of the event (9/28).

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